By Lisabet Sarai
Back in the days when I was a sex goddess, a fair fraction of my life was devoted to the erotic. If I wasn’t involved in some sort of delightful sexual activity, I was replaying the last such experience, or anticipating the next one. It would be an exaggeration to say that sex was the most important thing in my life, but certainly the notion of life without sex was horrifying—unthinkable.
I remember a conversation with my mother around that time. She would have been in her fifties, past menopause I believe, but considerably younger than I am now. After a rough struggle with addiction, she had embraced religion. “I’m so glad,” she told me, “that I don’t have to worry about sex anymore.”
I was appalled. She had always been an extremely sexual person. Her nude drawings exuded sensuality. I’d acquired my taste for slinky clothes and flashy jewelry from her. That she would willingly give up sex—it was inconceivable to me.
Now I understand that she always felt guilty about her sexuality. For her, a decision to forgo sex relieved the discomfort of those feelings (though I wonder whether she really succeeded in sublimating her libido as completely as she would have liked). At the time, however, I really could not imagine a life without sex.
Now, well into my sixth decade, I have a confession to make. I haven’t had sex in months. Even more astonishing, I’m neither totally miserable nor crazy with unsatisfied lust.
The sad truth is that my sex drive has declined as I’ve gotten older. This shouldn’t be surprising, but it surprised me. I guess I underestimated the importance of hormones. There’s also the fact that it’s more difficult to feel desirable as your body ages. I’m moderately well preserved, but still, I’m acutely aware of all the previously perky places that now sag, all the flexible parts that now feel rusty, all the hair that has migrated from attractive to unattractive locations.
Meanwhile, my husband is more than a decade older than I am. His libido has dwindled as well, much to his consternation. Fortunately we’re both intelligent enough (not to mention busy enough) not to dwell on the question to the point of misery, or to blame one another.
It’s not that I have lost interest in sex. I still become aroused when I’m writing, or reading, a steamy scene. And I still have intensely erotic dreams, in which I desire and am desired by both men and women. In fact, as I’ve become older, my dreams have become more explicit and more taboo.
It’s just that, more and more, my sex life takes place in my mind as opposed to in my body. This means I don’t have to deal with annoying physical issues like arthritic joints or a lack of vaginal lubrication. I can imagine myself back in my sex goddess years, or later, during the period when my husband and I were experimenting with swinging and polyamory. I can revel in dreams in which I’m a willing slave, offered by my master to a room of strangers, or a mature but not decrepit woman seducing a delicious young thing who’s drawn to my aura of experience.
Occasionally in my dreams I remember my age. Mostly, I’m still in my twenties, nubile and eager.
As my physical sex life ebbs, my writing takes on a new importance. Writing erotica and erotic romance keeps the flame alive. I can summon the dangerous thrill of an anonymous encounter or the deeply fulfilling connection with a love-time lover. I can revisit my many adventures, reshaping them for my readers, or create new ones.
It’s all happening in my mind, but my body reacts, too. I’m not usually aware of my arousal while I am writing, but later I often find myself drenched. And fundamentally, that’s the mystery that keeps me coming back to erotic fiction—the near magical way that a story, a mere figment of my imagination, can trigger physical reactions.
So ultimately, I don’t have live without sex after all. And hopefully, I never will.